Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's Important

I was putting my children to bed tonight.  Part of the bedtime routine is that I tell them "Little Girl" and "Little Boy" stories.  These are stories that I make up on the spot.  Some are shorter and some are longer, depending on how I feel and how well the creative juices are flowing.  Someday, I will write these stories down. 

Tonight was one of those nights when I felt a shorter story was called for.  I had just finished digging out the driveway; it was covered with about two feet of snow and I could no longer put it off.  (The truth is, my wife wouldn't let me.)  Anyway, it took me some time and energy to finish, and I could feel every muscle in my body begin to let me know how much they cared for what I did.  Since my muscles are a very selfish lot, they resented having to work on someone else's behalf, and decided to pack it in for the night... (with my luck, they'll pack it in for the next week or two.)

My kids feel very disappointed when they get the 'small stories' - as my four year old likes to call them, and so I have learned not to warn them in advance.  Tonight, as I finished what was most likely the shortest little girl and little boy story ever told, I had this thought hit me from out of nowhere.  "What if I never got to tell them another little girl and little boy story?  Is this the last one I want to ever tell them?"

Before you start wondering if I am being overly morbid, let me clarify.  Yes, I could die. My muscles are sure hinting that this is the direction they want to take, but more realistically, these stories could go the route many other bedtime rituals of the past have taken.  I used to sing to my children, and then that turned into playing the recorder for them - and yes, I do play the recorder... rather well, I think.  The recorder was followed by 'phone songs', which are basically mp3s that I have stored on my phone, mostly for the benefit of my children.  After phone songs, it became 'you tube', believe it or not, and then it became a muddle of all of the above.  Then one night, while my daughter and I were waiting for my son to finish brushing his teeth, I told her a "Little Girl" story, and they have been going strong since then and show no sign of stopping.

The truth is that I look forward to them.  I never know what adventures we will be in for until they actually unfold.  I don't plan ahead, and even if my kids have favourites, I often work something new into the ones they want to hear again.  The stories are also great carrots hanging from the proverbial stick, and they will often have to be told to slow down the brushing because they figure the quicker they are, the longer the story will be.  (Don't ever question the ingenuity of children.  It often outshines that of adults.)

Back to my thought... I hope and pray that these stories will continue for quite some time.  They connect my wife and I to our children, and they make me feel, if only for a short time, like a little boy again.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Learn or be learned

I just spent three days at a teacher's convention... to be more precise, it was a leading and learning conference.  I quite enjoyed it for the most part, but it seemed that other than a lot of new catch phrases, not much was new, but then, if the old hasn't been mastered I guess there is no room for anything new.  Before it sounds like I am slamming the conference, teaching, and learning, let me make it clear that all teachers are at individual places when it comes to teaching.  Some are hip-to-the-scene-daddio as far as technology is concerned, while others are up on cutting edge instructional techniques.  However, no two teachers are at exactly the same place, which means that conference's like these are necessary.

What did I take away from this conference?  I have decided that technology is the focus I want to make in my classes, specifically podcasts, vodcasts, etc.  I have already started and the kids have taken to it like... well, let's just say that they have taken to it. 

When I went to school, the big thing for us was being able to watch a video in class, or get handouts that didn't make your fingers turn purple.  It has been said that kids today have no clue how blessed they are techologically speaking, but I believe that the same thing was said when I went to school and I don't want to sound like someone I used to make fun of.  The truth of the matter is that no matter what kids are doing in school today, the kids of the future will be blessed with even cooler ways of doing the same thing, and someone will most likely say that kids have it easy, and don't get how hard things were for their parents, etc when they only had cellphones, laser printers, smartboards, and HDTV.

I, personally, won't complain.  Since some of the things that kids are doing today are much cooler than the things I was doing, and I hated doing what I was doing, then it would be somewhat hippocritical of me to suggest that things were better before, when I would have given my canine teeth to have been able to do some of the cooler things then that are being done now.

At the end of the day, the things kids do in the classroom need to be in line with what they are doing outside the classroom.  If teachers and parents aren't teaching them how to use the technology that is at hand then who is?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing with buttons...

I just imported an old blog to this one, and guess what? It worked. If you want to see the results you'll need to go to the older posts and see what was added. It was my first attempt at blogging before I started 'Life's like that...' Check it out and let me know if I should've left it hidden away...

Technology has come a long way since I was a kid, (Damn! I'm sounding like my dad... and his dad...). Things have changed a lot, even within the last decade and one of those changes is that playing around with things doesn't always break it. Before the modern computer, buttons, switches, teletype, etc. was the cutting edge, but the edge was very dull compared to today's standards. There were lots of moving parts, messy inks, and bulbs, tubes, etc. Back then playing with something, ie. messing around with things you don't understand, often lead to bangs, smoke, and tears. Now, if you mess up, you can usually take a step back and start over again, no harm done.

This obviously doesn't apply to all new tech. There are plenty of things out there that can still be bollixed up by the unfortunate neophyte, but I honestly believe that you almost have to try a lot harder to screw things up than you did when I was younger.

Anyway, I enjoy playing around with new programs, computers, PDA's phones, etc. Not only is it fun, it makes me look like I know more than I actually do, and that helps when you are trying to impress the most important people in your life... your kids and your significant other. I may be a faux techie, but if it helps me to stay in the saddle as the white knight for a little while longer, I will gladly keep up the facade...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'm writing this post from my phone as an experiment. I want to see if the tool that I use to write determines anything about my writing. Will I write more? Will I write less? Will my writing be the same quality, will it suffer, or will it improve?

I used to use pen and paper to write, and then I bought a portable typewriter, which I used extensively until I came into contact with a then new apple computer. That changed everything. I could cut and paste without scissors or glue. I could write many different versions of the same story, just by making little changes and then saving them under a different title. The list of things that I could now do goes on. The point is, that as technology has improved and progressed so has my writing. I will say that sometimes I miss that old typewriter of mine. Will I ever use it again? Probably not. Will I ever get rid of it? Not in the hyperbolic million years. My means of writing has changed over the years, but I don't forget old friends. I may eventually think my words onto a screen, but I will still have my pen and paper drafts, my typewritten pages, floppies, and thumb drives to help me remember how I got there.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff...

One of the wonderful thing about being a teacher is that your students have an incredible way of keeping things in perspective for you. One of my favourite poems is 'Ulysses', by Lord Alfred Tennyson. It is a long poem that is chock full of big words and archaic sentence structure. As my students would describe it, long, stupid, boring, and nonsensical. They were quite shocked to hear that I had actually wasted time to memorize the whole thing. Wait until we get to Shakespeare...

The whole point is that when I forget that the whole world doesn't share my tastes, or my interests I have about 50 kids who will gladly remind me. Now, I know that my students' interests are going to be very different from those of most people over 25; however, they still bring me down to earth a little and make me realize that even though it's okay for me to be interested in long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff, it's not okay for me to think that they may, for even a slight moment in time, be just as interested in it, at least at this point in their lives.

The trick then becomes, how do I turn them onto this long, boring, stupid, nonsensical stuff.

Well, that trick is the holy grail of teaching in any subject.

It's kind of ironic that as I write this I have Supertramp telling me in the background that the answers are easy to find... I guess I'm looking in the wrong places.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The past, the present, the future...

I may have already said this, but I am very platonic in my views of life; let me explain. Plato believed that we are the sum total of all of our experiences. In other words, we are who we are because of all that has happened to us, for us, with us, etc. I believe that all of that experience is wasted if we don't stop and review, reminisce, and recall our lives, our memories, our hopes and dreams, and all the other things that make life what it is, and make us what we are.

I don't necessarily think that we should focus on bad, or unpleasant memories, even though they are a part of our lives and are part of who we are, I think it is important to look back so that we can understand ourselves.

I lived in England for a couple of years and that experience has left an indelible imprint on me. In some ways, I am still trying to figure out how. I often feel the need to validate that experience. Why? You ask. We all need validation, even if it is internal. My being in England was and is something that changed my life. However, it appears that I am the only one who seems to recognize the magnitude of that experience, and that is alright. I have come to realize that the only way this experience will probably receive the kind of validation that I feel I need is to write about it. So, I have decided to write about my experiences in England. Will it work? I think so. Someday, I may realize that it doesn't matter if anyone but me cares about my experiences, but that will be okay. In the end this is all just for me. Even though I feel it is important to touch other's lives for good, and we all have something to share, it is important to remember that unless we can see our lives, and know our lives clearly we may not be able to do for others and for ourselves all that could be done. So look back, reflect on who you are, what you stand for, and why you are here, and know that there is good in the world, and part of that good is you. Socrates stated at his trial that the unexamined life is not worth living, and I am convinced this former student of Plato had it right.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh for a muse of fire...

One of the joys that comes with writing is seeing others react to your work positively. If success leads to more success - and for a writer, having someone else enjoy reading what you write is success, then why is it that writers who are good at their craft often find it hard to do. Is it a planet alignment thing? Shakespeare's cry, which titles this blog, is one that I am positive many writers have cried throughout time. The answers are always there, and they are always easy... to give, but when factors such as lack of time to write, lack of time to write, and ohhh, let's see... lack of time to write are thrown into the proverbial mix, then it becomes clear that 'said' time for writing becomes time for playing with the kids, or time sleeping, or time doing a myriad of other things that are not writing. (That was a long sentence that I had to nip in the bud... it was in danger of going on for many more lines, phew, but I digress...)

I have decided to try the suggestion that is thrown out to every writer who faces this situation, and that is... wait for it... to write! So here I am sitting here and writing while I am labelling a disc on my computer. (Actually, I am beside my computer, not on it, and the computer is actually doing the labelling, not me... I just told it too...)

If you have noticed a tendency to ramble here, it is because I am. This is because I am following the aforementioned suggestion to write. Is it working? I don't know. I guess if someone leaves a comment (hint, hint), I will know. (Sorry for the blatant attempt to garner written feedback about my blog... well, not really.)

I am going to end this blog with the promise that I will attend to it on a regular basis and a more frequent basis.

To all those of you out there who write, remember that the muse of fire was considered the highest muse, the one most sought after by wordsmiths, hence, the one that Shakespeare calls upon. May the fiery muse visit you and keep you company.

Friday, October 16, 2009

While my [computer] gently weeps...

I've been playing around with twitter recently, and I must say it has been an interesting experience. I signed up quite awhile ago, but never did anything with it - much like this blog, which I intend to update at least weekly, and it has actually been closer to yearly, (something that is changing with my re-discovery of twitter). I started playing with twitter again because I kept coming across references to it on msn, and facebook, etc. However, I found it a somewhat lonely experience, mainly because I had no followers. I went several days without any when I decided to look up an old friend on twitter. She lives in Sri Lanka and is very active in the facebook/twitter communities. I found her and followed her, and within minutes she became my first official follower... I was thrilled. Even more thrilling for me was the fact that within five or so minutes I had six followers. Now, I know that six seems paltry compared to some people's thousands, but I am happy to have these six because it means that I have six people from all over the globe that I can share my thoughts with.

I am still figuring out twitter, with all its little codes and stuff, and I'm sure that eventually it will become old hat. I don't want to turn this blog entry into an advert for twitter, so I'll stop here, suffice it to say that I am really very happy to have discovered it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The good, the bad, and the way it is...

The last few weeks/months have been tough ones for me and my family. However, I am repeatedly reminded, because I repeatedly forget, that it's way too easy to focus on the things that go wrong in life and take for granted the things that go right. It is also really easy to mistake the two... what we often perceive as right isn't necessarily so and vice versa. Some friends of ours have lost a baby, and my heart goes out to them. My wife and I are expecting a baby soon so this loss is closer to home to us in many ways. I know that time, the great healer, will move forward inexorably and life will fall back into its semblance of normalcy for our friends, whatever normalcy is, and joy and happiness will return to their lives.

It seems funny and somehow both merciful and cruel that when we are in the depths of sorrow life goes on for everyone around us. Even when it seems our lives have stopped, everyone else's seems to go on. I learned a long time ago that the word 'fair' is just that, a word. It is a word that is steeped in so much subjectivity that it is close to meaningless. I have had the opportunity and blessing to travel quite a bit during my adult life, and I have seen and noticed things that would challenge almost anyone's notion of fairness. However, I have also seen people who are amidst this unfairness laugh and smile, play with their children, and find joy where many of us would be unable to. Walt Whitman wrote a poem called "O Me! O Life!", and it is a very poignant poem. I suggest to anyone reading this blog to go out and read this poem. In it Whitman discusses the gross wrongs and evils of the world, and the futility of existence. He asks a question, "what good amidst these? Then he follows it up with a very powerful answer. In fact, let me post the poem here for you.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

166. O Me! O Life!

O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;

Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;

Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;

Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;

Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;

The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?


That you are here—that life exists, and identity;

That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Time will always move forward, the laws of thermodynamics ensures this, and life will keep pace with it. Change is a reality, but it doesn't have to be a harsh one. If we accept change in all of its myriad forms then we will become stronger and we will contribute very powerful verses.